by James C. Hyatt

Apple Inc.’s announcement Feb. 13 that it has asked the Fair Labor Association to conduct “special voluntary audits” of working conditions at the plants of Chinese suppliers follows a growing wave of unaccustomed adverse publicity toward the consumer electronics giant.

In January, the popular radio program This American Life broadcast an account of the experiences of monologist Mike Daisey, who has been performing a one-man show “The Agony and the Ectasy of Steve Jobs,” based on his research into conditions at the Foxconn plant.

And in late January, the New York Times ran a lengthy examination of working conditions at Chinese electronics manufacturers.

This American Life’s web page notes that advocacy group SACOM (Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior, Hong Kong) has released three reports investigating conditions at Foxconn.

Mr. Daisey has been performing his show at New York’s Public Theater.

The  January broadcast prompted a petition drive by activist groups and and last week the groups said they delivered more than 250,000 petition signatures to Apple seeking a working protection strategy.

Today (Feb. 13) the New York Times reported that Mr. Daisey plans to release a theatrical transcript of his show, free to download and without cost for a performer to use it.  After Apple’s announcement Feb. 13, Mr. Daisey posted comments on his website.

“This indicates that Apple has had a change of tactics – they have begun to hear the outrage of millions of Apple users around the world, and they are starting to understand the danger they are in.  They have begun to understand that their choices may have caused irreparable  harm to their brand.”

Mr. Daisey added:  “It’s vital to remember that the entire electronics industry is being put on notice—horrifying conditions are everywhere in the supply chains of all our major electronics brands, and this is the moment to exert that pressure. Samsung, Dell, Amazon, Acer, Lenovo, Motorola, Sony…the list is very, very long. Reforming how Foxconn works will help millions, but it is going to take a real coalition to change this industry.”

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